They are the bane of every driver’s existence—potholes! During the day when you have plenty of visibility, you’ll see them coming up. But at night, they can sneak up on you, causing a jolt to your truck, your mind, and your body.
Why do they form? How much do they cost to fix? Is there any research to prevent them from happening in the future?
The How and Why of Potholes
Potholes aren’t only on roadways. They are also in riverbeds, where they are formed by the movement of rocks caused by the current of the water. What does that have to do with the cargo-shaking ruts we hit on the road? Water is the reason they are there.
Potholes on roadways are created because there is water underneath the relatively thin and porous asphalt surface we drive on. When the water moves, freezes and thaws, or reaches the limits of its container, it moves the rocks, sand, and other material around it.
Water is a powerful force and, when it can no longer be contained, it will find a way out. Water expands when it freezes, which puts pressure on the road above it, causing movement in the asphalt. Conversely, it contracts when it thaws, causing rocks and sand to move away, leaving an open space below the surface above it. With multiple tons of weight moving over the roadways every day and night, asphalt will crumble into and away from the empty space left from the power of water.
An unusually wet winter such as the one we’re experiencing this season in the Midwest, along with the usual freezing and thawing patterns, will likely result in an increase in those dastardly ruts we encounter daily.
What’s the Cost?
Let’s take a look at one midwestern state—Michigan. According to the MDOT Website (Michigan Department of Transportation) it cost $9 million in 2018 to repair the roadways in the state. Over the past 10 years, 2014 was the most expensive year for Michigan’s infrastructure, with a cost of $10 million. If you happened to be in Michigan that winter, it is easy to remember because of the heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures.
As reported by WCPO Cincinnati, the state of Ohio may pay for damage done to your car or truck if a claim is submitted when the damage occurs. While this may seem like a great benefit on the surface, the increased cost to the state inevitably leads to an increase in taxes.
In addition to the cost to repair potholes, there is also the expense to individual drivers and trucking companies. As claimed by an AAA Pothole Study, the annual cost to drivers due to potholes is $3 billion. The effects on the trucking industry include repairs to tires, suspension, and mechanical parts.
Will Technology Help?
Mother Nature needs no help in creating potholes, but there are many ways technology can help, not only with giving driver’s a heads-up on potholes, but also with improving the roads to free them of these driving hazards.
Reporting potholes on apps such as Waze helps other drivers avoid damage to their vehicles. As this type of technology increases in popularity, it will help researchers find trends and patterns where potholes are occuring. When tracking is used, drainage can be improved to decrease the likelihood of future fractures in the asphalt.
According to a report in The Verge, studies and testing are being conducted in The Netherlands to create self-healing roads. Small steel fibers are added to asphalt that, when heated, work to seal cracks and fractures. This material is not completely self-healing because it does need intense heat to work, but the expense is less than constantly filling potholes and the effects are longer lasting.
While it’s important to be aware of where the potholes are, especially when driving long hours during the night, the future may hold better roadways for delivering goods. Have any good pothole stories? Share them in the comment section or on our Facebook Page.